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Indigenous Cultures May Hold Key To Curing Chronic Back Pain

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A Natural Cure To Chronic Back Pain?

Back pain is very common problem in modern day society. As we get older, many of us deal with some sort of back pain. Unfortunately for some of us, this pain may become chronic, with little if any treatment available to help.  However, there is hope out there for those dealing with back issues. In the following article, an acupuncturist, Esther Gokhale, who suffered from severe back pain herself, started studying Indigenous cultures that did not have problems with back pain. What she learned was truly amazing.

Check out the article below and let us know your thoughts

 

by MICHAELEEN DOUCLEFF

Back pain is a tricky beast. Most Americans will at some point have a problem with their backs. And for an unlucky third, treatments won’t work, and the problem will become chronic.

Lower back pain is a common problem in the United States

Believe it or not, there are a few cultures in the world where back pain hardly exists. One indigenous tribe in central India reported essentially none.

An acupuncturist in Palo Alto, Calif., thinks she has figured out why. She has traveled around the world studying cultures with low rates of back pain — how they stand, sit and walk. Now she’s sharing their secrets with back pain sufferers across the U.S.

About two decades ago, Esther Gokhale started to struggle with her own back after she had her first child. Gokhale had a herniated disc. Eventually she had surgery to fix it. But a year later, it happened again. “They wanted to do another back surgery. You don’t want to make a habit out of back surgery,” she says.

This time around, Gokhale wanted to find a permanent fix for her back. So she started to think outside the box. She had an idea: “Go to populations where they don’t have these huge problems and see what they’re doing.”

 

Then over the next decade, Gokhale went to cultures around the world that live far away from modern life. She went to the mountains in Ecuador, tiny fishing towns in Portugal and remote villages of West Africa.

She tried to figure out what all these different people had in common. The first thing that popped out was the shape of their spines. “They have this regal posture, and it’s very compelling.”

And it’s quite different than American spines.

If you look at an American’s spine from the side, or profile, it’s shaped like the letter S. It curves at the top and then back again at the bottom.

But Gokhale didn’t see those two big curves in people who don’t have back pain. “That S shape is actually not natural,” she says. “It’s a J-shaped spine that you want.”

“The J-shaped spine is what you see in Greek statues. It’s what you see in young children. It’s good design,” Gokhale says.

So Gokhale worked to get her spine into the J shape. And gradually her back pain went away.

Then Gokhale realized she could help others. She developed a set of exercises, wrote a book and set up a studio in downtown Palo Alto.

Each year, doctors in the Bay Area refer hundreds of patients to Gokhale. One of them is Dr. Neeta Jain, an internist at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation. She puts Gokhale’s method in the same category as Pilates and yoga for back pain. And it doesn’t bother her that the method hasn’t been tested in a clinical trial.

But there’s still a big question looming here: Is Gokhale right? Have people in Western cultures somehow forgotten the right way to stand?

Scientists don’t know yet, says Dr. Praveen Mummaneni, a neurosurgeon at the University of California, San Francisco’s Spine Center. Nobody has done a study on traditional cultures to see why some have lower rates of back pain, he says. Nobody has even documented the shape of their spines.

But there’s a whole bunch of reasons why Americans’ postures — and the shape of their spines — may be different than those of indigenous populations, he says. For starters, Americans tend to be much heavier.

“If you have a lot of fat built up in the belly, that could pull your weight forward,” Mummaneni says. “That could curve the spine. And people who are thinner probably have less curvature” — and thus a spine shaped more like J than than an S.

Everyone knows that weak abdominal muscles can cause back pain. In fact, Mummaneni says, stronger muscles might be the secret to Gokhale’s success.

So Gokhale has somehow figured out a way to teach people to build up their core muscles without them even knowing it. “Yes, I think that’s correct,” Mummaneni says. “You’re not going to be able to go from the S- to the J-shaped spine without having good core muscle strength. And I think that’s key here.”

Read the full article from NPR here.

Image sources from NPR and spineinstitutenorthwest

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